Some good news came to those in attendance at United Churches of Lycoming County's recent annual assembly.
The ecumenical organization, which celebrated 65 years this year, began a fundraising campaign with a goal of raising $45,000. Now, with a little less than a month left in the year, the organization has raised more than $33,000, or roughly 75 percent of its goal.
"Our God is a God of hope," Rev. Gwen Bernstine, executive director of the organization, said of the campaign. "We were hoping we could come close to that goal."
The funds have come from a number of sources including member churches, individuals and businesses as well as through two fundraisers: the Amazing Grace Tour and a golf tournament.
The second annual Amazing Grace Tour raised nearly $3,000 for the organization, while the golf tournament, in its first year, raised more than $8,000, surpassing the organization's expectations.
"It's been an amazing story, as we've just watched people be willing to help and stand behind United Churches," Bernstine said.
Bernstine also said the results of the fundraising are helpful not only in supporting the organization's financial future but also in reassuring all those involved in it that "we can do this together."
"It's reassuring to see all the work was not in vain," she said.
Because of the fundraising efforts of so many people, the organization announced it will be able to give its six employees, including Bernstine, a 5-percent increase to their salaries for 2012.
Last year at this time, the organization, because of budget constraints, was forced to cut salaries by 20 percent and switch to a four-day work week.
Rev. Ken Weiss, who has been highly involved in planning for United Churches' financial future and organized the golf tournament, said while the 5 percent certainly does not make up for last year's cuts, it is a step in the right direction.
Weiss said his concern with cutting salaries last year was that it would become a trend. He did not want to see it continue.
"It's a start, but it's a very good one," he said. "To be able to put the brakes on that trend is great. To start to turn it around is even better."
In addition to being able to increase salaries, Weiss said the fundraising efforts, which are a new way of thinking for the organization, also have had non-financial benefits, including a renewed sense of awareness of the importance of the organization and the ministries it provides to the community.
The 180-member cooperative ministry provides a number of ministry programs throughout the county including Shepherd of the Streets, a food pantry, prison ministries, nursing home ministries, ecumenical lunches and services, campus ministry, Footsteps to Follow editorials, devotion lines and interfaith panel discussions.
"It's a process we have started and will continue," Weiss said of the effort to demonstrate the organization's value to the community. "Hopefully, we'll get a lot better at it."